Chapter 1 Summary: The First Humans, Prehistory–3500 BC
This chapter begins by explaining that history is explored mostly through written records. The period prior to writing is considered prehistory. Next it describes how historians learn about this time through archeology, “the study of past societies,” and anthropology, “the study of human life and culture.” Included in this section is a discussion of how artifacts and fossils are dated through radiocarbon dating, thermoluminescence dating, and the use of ancient DNA.
The next section discusses how humans evolved and changed through time. The author points out that as science improves methods of research, what is known about early people may change significantly. The author then explains how people changed from hominids (upright walking creatures) to Homo erectus (upright human beings) to Homo sapiens. Following this is a brief description of Neanderthals and then an explanation of how Homo sapiens spread throughout the world. This section ends with a discussion of hunter gatherers of the stone age, including their way of life, roles of men and women, adaption techniques, fire usage, how the ice ages affected them, and how they created the art from which historians have gained much of their knowledge of this time period.
The Neolithic Revolution and the Rise of Civilization
The Neolithic period, from 8000 BC to 4000 BC, is a time when early people changed their way of life from being primarily hunter-gatherers to being farmers and keepers of animals. The author describes early methods for growing crops such as wheat, barley, rice, yams, and bananas. He then explains how this enabled villages to form in Europe, India, Egypt, China, Meso-America, and Southwest Asia. The author then discusses how the change in acquiring food affected many aspects of human lives, including relationships between men and women, and also how it resulted in the end of the Neolithic age.
This chapter concludes with a discussion of the emergence of civilization. This included the rise of cities, growth of governments, increase in religion’s significance, establishment of new social structures, and the use of writing.
Chapter 2 Summary: Western Asia And Egypt, 3500–500 BC
Civilization Begins in Mesopotamia
This section begins with a discussion of how geography affected development in Mesopotamia. The author then describes the city-states in ancient Mesopotamia, including the Sumerian cities surrounded by brick walls and the temples that were the most important building in each city. The author then analyzes the roles the gods, goddesses, and rulers played in society as well as the economy and social structures.
This section continues with a description of empires in Mesopotamia, such as the Akkadian Empire, the first empire in history. The author then describes Babylon and its ruler, Hammurabi, and the 282 laws he wrote called the Hammurabi Code. Following this is a discussion of the role of religion in Mesopotamia. The section ends with an explanation of the creativity of the Sumerians, including how and why they developed systems of writing, literature, and inventions that simplified life and increased productivity.
Egyptian Civilization: “The Gift of the Nile”
This section begins with a discussion of how geography affected development along the Nile. It differentiates between Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. The author then explains why religion was important in this part of the world. Following this is a discussion of the history of ancient Egypt. The three main time periods covered are the Old Kingdom (2700–2200 BC), the Middle Kingdom (2050–1652 BC), and the New Kingdom (1567–1085 BC). This includes descriptions of the pyramids and mummies. This section concludes with discussions about society, daily life, writing, education, and advances in the arts and science in ancient Egypt.
New Centers of Civilization
This section addresses the role of nomadic people and how they helped develop many small city-states and kingdoms in western Asia. The first of the groups looked at is the Phoenicians. The second group is the Israelites, known as the Children of Israel. They established a united kingdom under the rule of King Solomon. After his death they were divided by the Assyrians. The author wraps up this section by describing the spiritual dimensions of Israel.
The Rise of New Empires
This section begins with a description of how the Assyrians rose and became a powerful group of people. It ends with a discussion about the Persian Empire, including how it rose, its structure, how it fell, and the role religion played within Persian culture.
Chapter 3 Summary: India And China, 3000 BC–AD 500
Early Civilization in India
This chapter begins with a description of India’s geography and climate. It is followed by a discussion of India’s first civilizations, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, including their rulers and the economy. Next the author explains who the Aryans were and how their arrival and way of life affected the early civilizations in the Indus River valley. He then describes the caste system and what family life was like in ancient India. He wraps up this section by describing Hinduism and Buddhism. For each of these religions, the author describes how they started and some of their basic beliefs.
New Empires in India
The author opens this section with a discussion about the Mauryan dynasty. He explains how the dynasty started and then continues with the reign of Asoka, who was the grandson of the dynasty’s founder; to many, he is the greatest leader in India’s history. Following this is a description of the Kushan kingdom, the Silk Road, and the kingdom of Gupta. This section ends with a description of Indian culture, literature, architecture, and science.
Early Chinese Civilizations
The author begins this section with a description of China’s geographical features. He then talks about the Shang dynasty, which ruled from 1750–1122 BC, including its political and social structures, religion, and culture. This is followed by a discussion of the Zhou dynasty, which ruled from 1045–256 BC. The author includes the dynasty's political structure, the Mandate of Heaven given to the Zhou leaders, the fall of the dynasty, life during this time period, economic and technological growth, what family life was like, and the introduction of a written language in China. This section concludes with a discussion of Chinese philosophies, including Confucianism, Daoism, and legalism.
Rise and Fall of Chinese Empires
This section of the chapter begins with a discussion of the Qin dynasty. The author analyzes the changes they made politically and socially, the Great Wall of China, and how the dynasty fell. He then talks about the Han dynasty’s political structure, the expansion of China, what society was like, and technological growth within the Han empire. The author discusses the fall of the Han empire and ends the chapter by describing Chinese culture during these two dynasties.
Chapter 4 Summary: Ancient Greece, 1900–133 BC
The First Greek Civilizations
This chapter begins with a discussion of how Greece’s geography affected its development. The author then introduces Minoan civilization and talks about its defeat by the Mycenaeans. The author then discusses Mycenae, the first Greek state. He wraps up this section with a description of a dark age in Greek’s history, including developments during this time and Homer’s writing of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
The Greek City-States
This section begins with an explanation of what the polis, or Greek city-state, was like and why it was the center of Greek life. The author then discusses some of the colonies developed by Greece, including those in Northern Africa, in Southern Europe, and surrounding the Black Sea. He follows this with a discussion on tyranny in the city-states and explains that a "tyrant" at this time in history refers to a ruler who took over from aristocrats, not necessarily someone who was oppressive. The author concludes this section with descriptions comparing Sparta and Athens.
The author opens this section by describing how Persia challenged Greece and how the Athenians won against a much larger Persian force. He then continues by explaining how the Athenian empire grew and. Next he discusses the Great Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. He finishes this section by describing life in classical Athens, including the economy, family, and role of women.
The Culture of Classical Greece
This section opens with a discussion of religion in Greece. The author then discusses drama in Greece, in particular tragedies and comedies. The third topic covered is Greek philosophy. The author includes the Sophists, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The fourth topic covered is the writing of history by the Greeks. The final topic in this section is a discussion of the classical ideals demonstrated in Greek art.
Alexander and the Hellenistic Kingdoms
The last section of the chapter begins by describing how Macedonia developed and became a threat to the Greeks. The author introduces Alexander the Great and describes his conquests and legacy. This is followed by a discussion of the Hellenistic kingdoms in which Greek culture was spread. The Hellenistic culture included architecture, sculpture, literature, science, and philosophy.